Healing

Somewhat against my instincts toward wallowing in the mud of uncertainty, I have listened to my patient husband and soft-spoken oncologist and followed their advice this week:  Rest.  Relax.  Heal.

I was able to attend two telecons for work, to accept the renegotiation of my NASA contract for later deliverables due to the delays that chemo has caused, and to start – and almost finish – a gift for my eight classmates who reached a milestone as they were accepted into the church last Sunday.  Something moved me to take up needlecraft again, and as I sit patiently and rest, I’m stitching each of them a bookmark to carry with them in their brand new Bibles – the first that several of them have ever owned. (Each has a cross-stitched cross, and a single word: Love.)

We put up the Christmas tree – and by that I mean that C did, while the children laughingly danced around the back and helped him hang the strings of light while I sat snuggled up in my chair with my fuzzy pink ribbon/AGD blanket that was sent to me during my treatment in 2007.  I wear it like a talisman on days that I’m sick, alternating it with the beautiful one sent by friends in Australia to keep me warm and cozy during the same time.  I took pictures of their laughing faces, and Widget took a video of me saying how deliriously happy I was to be decorating the tree with my family this year.  My heart swelled seven sizes that day, and it wasn’t just the Christmas carols on the radio, either.

We’ve kept up many of our traditions, although we haven’t introduced the Advent wreath this year, to my embarrasment, but it’s probably just as well, as Little Bear is only 3 and would surely be fascinated by the flame.  We do have our Nativity up and tell the stories in our quiet moments.  We went to church on Wednesday for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, prodded by 6-year-old Widget, who reminded me that it was a day important to the Sisters in our parish, so off we went.  When the twelve raised their voices in a song of commitment, I was struck to the very core with the realization that angels do not just sing in the voices of 20-year-olds, or with the cherubic voices of children like the one sitting beside me, hand in my hand, head resting gently on my shoulder.  Sometimes we hear the voices of angels in places we do not expect.

In my church growing up, Mrs. Suzanne Guthrie always sang the same song near the end of the Christmas Eve service: O Holy Night.  (Mel, if you could have heard her sing it, you would have tears in your eyes –)  She sang it in the same high first soprano voice that melts hearts all over the world each December 24th, but she did it so well and for so many years that Christmas just wasn’t Christmas until Suzanne sang O Holy Night.  One of our madrigals, Beth Jones, took over the carol when Suzanne “retired” from choir solos as her voice began to tremble, but it was never really the same.

Oh, and I realized yesterday that I had not gotten an Advent calendar for the children in my pre-exhaustion weeks, and so I turned the problem over in my head a few times until I hit upon a solution – make my own, using a muffin pan and some little giftLego fun!ies I had hidden away for a time when I would need them, and be too tired to go out and buy something.  I put cupcake liners in the pan, filled each with a few new and interesting legos, and covered the whole thing tightly with wrapping paper.  I later found some much prettier versions on Etsy, but it was exciting to me to be able to improvise on the spot, to uphold our family traditions even when I couldn’t get out to the store.  The children opened their first one today and found twenty little white bricks with eyes on them – and spent the next half-hour creating new animals, robots, and space planes with laser eyes.

When they saw what I had made, their eyes lit up.  When we decorated the tree, it was magical – for all four of us.  When they unthinkingly suck their little thumbs as they move the donkey and ox about the Nativity scene, when they jump into my lap, when Widget tells Little Bear, “No, Mama’s too tired, but we can snuggle her,” when we snuggle to read bedtime stories, and when they remind me, “Mama, it’s time for church,” I know that I’m doing the right thing.  As hard as it is not to jump back into work and everything with both feet, that’s not my first priority right now.  Right now, I’m doing what I need to do with work, and making time to make Christmas for my children.  My beautiful, sweet, thoughtful boys. 

And I write this not only for you, that you see what life is like for a woman constrained by illness, but for them, that they will one day see that even in the difficult times, there is room to encourage and appreciate the beauty in ordinary life.  That my greatest joy is my children, and that they bring me no end of gratitude and love, and for them I will do anything – even rest and heal – so that I can write them love letters for months and years to come.

16 Responses to Healing

  1. Deb says:

    It sounds lovely, which seems like such an odd thing to say to a woman battling cancer but in my minds eye I can see your family. You are present for your children which is a huge gift.

    Take care.

    • whymommy says:

      It is my goal and what I work for with all of my being.

      Well, that and advancing space science with tough reviews and encouragement of younger women to stay in the field. I’m not quite as selfless as I try to be….

      • Um, how is that not selfless?! Just because you enjoy it and it’s important to you doesn’t mean you’re selfish to do it🙂
        You are giving your children an amazing childhood, and inspiring women all over the world, scientists and mothers and both. Have a wonderful, beautiful, healing Christmas.

  2. Stimey says:

    Your children are so incredibly lucky to have a mother like you who loves them so deeply and so truly and who does absolutely everything for them, even (especially?) when she has to improvise. You make everything so special for those kids—as does C. And I know they make everything so special for you too. I am glad you have this time to rest and heal and be with your family. Also, I remember how hard chemo was for you last time and how strongly you bounced back. I am waiting for that.

    Enjoy the snuggles and the cozy of the Christmas tree and the nativity and the cross stitch, which I am beyond impressed by, because in my house, if you can’t glue or tape it, it doesn’t happen.

    • whymommy says:

      Thanks, Stimey. And thanks for reminding me that I did bounce back. It’s hard to remember during these short days of winter and long afternoon naps….

      Do I need to take a picture of the bookmarks for proof? 🙂

  3. *m* says:

    Love your ingenious advent calendar idea. That would have been a hit with my little Lego-lovers back in the day. Now 13 and 16, they still love our advent calendar more than any other Christmas decoration.

    There’s nothing more special than making magic for your little ones and watching their faces light up. I have to believe that moments like this are nourishing your body as well as your soul.

    • whymommy says:

      I believe so too! And *m*, I will write you a note, but I can’t thank you enough for the amazing books you sent to occupy my boys & me during this season of rest – they’re an absolute hit! Please thank your big boys for me too, for letting what were obviously well-loved books go.

      • *m* says:

        No note needed, Susan, truly. We are so happy you and your guys are enjoying them as we did. Happy reading!

  4. Linda Lawrence says:

    Aren’t children wonderful! Enjoy! 🙂

  5. Becky says:

    Such an inspired, creative, wonderful and loving advent calendar you created! We’re behind in opening the doors on ours, which reveal pieces to the nativity scene; I’ll get it out tonight! This season always seems rushed, when it’s the moments together that are the core and the meaning of Christmas! Thanks for the remidnder to be in the moment, to look for angels, to *hear* Christmas songs and to share love. Sending you an added layer of love to curl up with as you rest, rejuvenate, rejoice. From your blizzard-bound friend in WI!

  6. Betsy says:

    Amen. Once again I’m blessed by your words, which hardly seems fair. Sending love and prayers.

  7. NYfriend says:

    Such a warm and lovely post. I’m so glad that you are able to be present with your family and “make Christmas” together. All too often we get caught up in the hub bub of life, and we all can take a page from your book about enjoying life.

    Sending restful, healing vibes your way.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this. I make all kinds of excuses for why things don’t get done, but clearly, if you make something a priority, it happens.

    Wishing you strength for many more smiles this season. You’re helping me remember how important beauty is.

  9. Valerie says:

    I’m not good at comments, but please know that you’re in my thoughts and prayers. Wishing you a strong faith and continuous healing.

  10. Mel says:

    You know how sometimes you’re reading a blog post, lost in the moment, and you feel the writer is speaking directly to you? Well, I was lost in the post and did a double take when I saw my name as if I had dreamed it🙂

    That sounds beautiful.

  11. I love this: “…even in the difficult times, there is room to encourage and appreciate the beauty in ordinary life.”

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